Reforming the FEC: Designed for Partisan Gridlock

Pursuant to the Federal Elections Campaign Act (FECA), the FEC is run by six commissioners, with no more than three from the same political party. The FECA also requires four commissioners to vote affirmatively for the Commission to proceed on any action. As a result, tie votes deadlock enforcement matters frequently.

As the Washington Post noted, “time and again partisan standoffs have prevented the Commission from pursuing enforcement actions against major politicians and powerful interest groups, even when the FEC’s general counsel recommends going forward.” This is unacceptable.

Any real reform of the FEC requires an uneven number of commissioners, with one commissioner independent enough to have the ability to break ties. Others have suggested looking to the structure of institutions such as the FBI, which vests significant control in a single director, serving a term unrelated to that of the president who made the appointment. Either of these proposals likely would promote more effective enforcement.

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